The Yukon has lost its top-10 score in the Fraser Institute’s annual ranking of worldwide mining jurisdictions.
In the latest report, released this week, the Yukon is now considered the 19th most attractive place in the world for mining companies to invest, down from eighth last year.
The report polls mining companies, asking them a series of questions about whether they’d consider investing in 112 jurisdictions across the world. For each question, the jurisdictions are ranked from most to least appealing for investors.
“The greatest drops between years was in uncertainty concerning the interpretation and enforcement of existing regulations, political stability and for the taxation regime,” said Alana Wilson, one of the report’s authors.
The Yukon ranked 79th on the undisputed land claims index, with 58 per cent of the survey respondents saying the territory’s land claims issues are a deterrent to investment, 18 per cent calling it a strong deterrent and three per cent saying they wouldn’t spend any money here.
Yukon placed 25th on existing environmental regulations, below Zambia, Liberia, Burkina Faso, Wyoming and Suriname.
In terms of its legal system, however, the Yukon did much better. Only five countries scored better than the Yukon, and only one was deemed better on the taxation question.
Two other strong areas were the geological database, where the Yukon placed 13th with 65 per cent of respondents saying it was encouraging investment, and security, with 67 per cent saying it encouraged investment.
The highest ranking the territory earned relative to other jurisdictions was on its trade barriers, which respondents said were the third-least restrictive in the world, behind only Utah and Minnesota.
Samson Hartland, executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines, said he was disappointed with the rankings.
“You can’t ignore the elephant in the room. I’m down here at (the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada conference in Toronto) and it’s what everyone is talking about. The political stability, it’s interesting words that they used. That’s land-use planning and certainty in the Yukon,” Hartland said.
Uncertainty created by the lawsuits between the Yukon government and affected First Nations is scaring away investment, he said. Specifically, Hartland pointed to the court battles over the government’s plans for the Peel watershed and the proposed Atlin campground.
“We’re going to call to bring some semblance of stability to the conversation… To have it play out in the courts is a delicate situation, and we want to encourage people to get to the table and just talk,” he said.
With much of the territory’s land-use planning unfinished, the government can’t afford to be dragged to court every time there is a dispute, said Hartland.
Mines minister Scott Kent said he was also disappointed in the rankings, but he is encouraged that the areas needing improvement are ones the government has the power to change.
“I haven’t had a chance to review the whole study, but it’s obviously disappointing. It takes an awful lot of work to gain that reputation and work your way up to a top 10 ranking, such as we had,” Kent said.
When it comes to relationships with First Nations, Kent disputes that those relationships have soured.
“I think we have good relationships on a number of files. Obviously there are some challenges that we face in dealing with specific aspects with respect to First Nations relations. We’re always looking to improve there,” he said.
But Opposition Leader Liz Hanson said this is all a sign of a bigger problem.
“The problems we’re facing here in the territory is a government that has said pretty clearly to the Yukon and the world that the main pillar of their economic development vision is mining, and then they’ve done everything possible to thwart the success of that mining,” Hanson said.
When two Yukon First Nations announced they were suing the government over its handling of the Peel watershed land use planning, Premier Darrell Pasloski told CBC that allowing the courts to settle the dispute is sometimes required.
“We truly are leading not only the country, but in a lot of respects leading the world on this, and that’s why sometimes you have opportunities where there is disagreement and that resorts to going to the courts to create that certainty,” he said.
“It speaks volumes when you have a premier who doesn’t see the irony in saying something like ‘lawsuits bring certainty,’” said Hanson. “The reality is that lawsuits don’t do anything other than drive away the certainty we thought we had all created through devolution and land claims.”
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